26th May 2017

NATO chief would not rule out EU states going to war

The head of NATO has suggested that the EU's battle groups could be used for going to war.

In an interview with El Pais on Thursday (10 March), Jaap de Hoop Scheffer indicated he did not believe that the battle groups - the first of which are due to be operational in 2007 - would only be used for peacekeeping, as EU officials suggest.

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"Why is the EU creating battle groups? It is not just to help rebuild a country".

"It may be, that to keep the peace, combat is necessary. If the EU creates battlegroups and NATO a rapid-reaction force, I would say we shouldn't think the EU is for soft power and NATO for tough power", said Mr de Hoop Scheffer.

According to EU plans, the 13 battle groups will contain 1,500 soldiers each and are to be mobilised within 10 days to trouble spots around the world.

They will operate within a 6000 km radius and will be equipped to stay in an area for up to four months.

Any suggestion of the battle groups be used to go to war is likely to be strongly resisted by neutral countries such as Sweden, Finland and Ireland - all 25 member states have to give their approval before the EU may engage in military operations.

According to the new EU Constitution, if it is adopted, the EU's military capabilities can be used for ""joint disarmament operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peacekeeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking and post-conflict stabilisation [Art. III-309]".

Among EU-managed operations to date have been a mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003 and the taking over from NATO in Bosnia at the end of last year.

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